Southern California Home Sales Rise in December

LA JOLLA, Calif. ( DQNews) -- Southern California home sales surged last month from November -- as they normally do -- amid relatively strong activity under $300,000 and a record share of sales to "absentee" buyers, mainly investors.

But with the purchase plans of many ordinary buyers and sellers still on hold, the year-end rush couldn't lift sales above December 2010. Moreover, investors' focus on lower-cost homes helped push the median sale price back down to its 2011 low point, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 19,247 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in December. That was up 14.0% from 16,884 in November but down 1.4% from 19,528 in December 2010, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

While December sales of existing (not new) houses and condos combined fell 0.5% from a year earlier, sales of newly built homes fell 12% year over year, to the lowest level on record for a December.

"Last year ended much the way it began, with pitifully low new-home sales, record investor activity, drum-tight credit, and lots of potential buyers and sellers just sitting tight," said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

"Some of the economic vital signs have improved lately and it's sparked a renewed sense of optimism in housing circles," he said. "Coupled with incredibly low mortgage rates, it certainly suggests 2012 might offer the 'rock bottom' for pricing that many buyers and sellers have been waiting for. But the housing drama isn't over. Credit conditions remain horrible, leaving many unable to take advantage of today's improved affordability. And lenders still must decide the fate of scores of borrowers who aren't making their mortgage payments."

Last month the median price paid for all new and resale Southland houses and condos sold was $270,000, down 1.8% from $275,000 in November and down 6.9% from $290,000 in December 2010. Last month's $270,000 median matched January and October for the lowest level of 2011. The regional median has declined year-over-year for the past 10 months - since last March.